Items filtered by date: Sunday, 18 June 2017

McCain: North Korea 'murdered' former detainee Otto Warmbier

By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN


(CNN)Otto Warmbier, the American college student who spent 17 months in North Korean detention, died Monday afternoon in Cincinnati, his family said.

"It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home. Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died today at 2:20 p.m.," the statement said.
His death elicited strong repudiations of the regime from the highest levels of the American government.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who helped push for Warmbier's release, said the United States holds North Korea "accountable" for his unjust imprisonment.
The North Korean government said the student fell into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill in March 2016. But US doctors said they found no evidence of the illness.
"Let us state the facts plainly: Otto Warmbier, an American citizen, was murdered by the Kim Jong Un regime," said US Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona.
Who is Otto Warmbier?
President Donald Trump condemned the "brutal regime" and expressed condolences to the Warmbier family.
"There is nothing more tragic for a parent than to lose a child in the prime of life," he said in a statement.
"Otto's fate deepens my administration's determination to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency. The United States once again condemns the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim."
The 22-year-old returned to the United States last week and had not spoken or moved in any purposeful way since. In a news conference last Thursday, doctors called his condition "unresponsive wakefulness," also known as persistent vegetative state, and revealed he had suffered significant brain damage during his imprisonment.
What is unresponsive wakefulness?
The family thanked the staff at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for doing everything they could for their son in his final days.
"Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today."
Trip ends in allegations
Warmbier signed up for a trip to North Korea in spring 2016 with the Young Pioneer Tours travel group. He was supposed to spend five days in North Korea followed by a visit to Beijing.
But as he tried to depart from Pyongyang's airport, he was stopped in security.
How the US secured Otto Warmbier's release from North Korea
According to the North Korean government, Warmbier was detained because he had stolen a political poster from a restricted floor in his hotel. The next time the world saw Warmbier he was distraught, breaking down in front of Korean journalists in a video North Korea released in February 2016.
He admitted to the crime and begged for forgiveness and for his release. Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for his alleged crime. In the end, he spent 17 months in North Korea before he was released and returned to the United States by a medical aircraft.
How the US secured his release
While Warmbier was held, the United States consistently urged North Korea to allow Sweden consular access to Warmbier and three other American citizens, and pushed for their release.
After being briefed on the situation, Trump directed Tillerson to take appropriate measures to secure the release of American hostages there, a senior State Department official told CNN. Tillerson began the effort and routinely updated the President.
Then, on June 6, State Department special representative Joseph Yun learned of Warmbier's deteriorating health in a meeting with North Korean UN Mission Ambassador Pak Kil-yon in New York City, the senior State Department official said.
What does it take to get an American released from North Korea?
Yun went to North Korea on June 12 with a medical team to secure Warmbier's release, the official said. Yun and two doctors visited Warmbier that morning, marking the first time the United States was able to confirm his status since he was sentenced in March 2016. Yun immediately demanded that Warmbier be released on humanitarian grounds and arrangements were made for him to leave.
He was evacuated the next day and reunited with his family in Cincinnati.
"When Otto returned to Cincinnati late on June 13 he was unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands. He looked very uncomfortable -- almost anguished. Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day the countenance of his face changed -- he was at peace. He was home and we believe he could sense that," the family's statement said.
"It would be easy at a moment like this to focus on all that we lost -- future time that won't be spent with a warm, engaging, brilliant young man whose curiosity and enthusiasm for life knew no bounds. But we choose to focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person."
CNN's Kevin Liptak, Elise Labott and Miguel Marquez contributed to this report.

  • Published in U.S.

Poels upbeat about securing a place in Team Sky’s Tour de France squad

Wout Poels is optimistic about securing a place in Team Sky’s Tour de France squad after returning to racing at the Route du Sud in the Pyrenees following a knee injury.


The Dutchman had not raced since the Ruta del Sol in early February. His knee pain meant he was unable to defend his 2016 victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and his chances of riding in support of Chris Froome initially seemed slim. However, Poels is considered one of Froome’s key support riders in the mountains after helping him win the Tour in 2015 and 2016.

Poels has now been back in full training for several weeks and is hoping the Team Sky management will trust him to come good in the mountain stages of the Tour de France.

"I confident that I’m in [the Tour de France squad]. The progression I’ve made in recent weeks is clear to see. As a domestique for Froome, I don’t need to be good from the first day. I need to be fresh to work in the third week, in the Alps,” Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf report Poels as saying after he finished 41st overall at the Route de Sud.

Competition for the nine places in Team Sky’s squad for the Tour de France is intense, with 13 riders on a long list. Chris Froome is targeting a fourth victory and will need strong support as he competes against Richie Porte (BMC), Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

Geraint Thomas and Michal Kwiatkowski are expected to play key supporting roles for Froome, with Peter Kennaugh, Sergio Henao and Mikel Landa all under consideration as mountain domestiques. Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard, Christian Knees, Vasil Kiryienka and several other riders are in line for domestique duty on the flatter stages.

Team Sky is likely to confirm its final line-up after next weekend’s national championships races.

Poels explained that he has not felt any pain in his knee for several weeks. In the spring, he felt what he described as a sharp pain, forcing him to make a very gradual recovery. He will continue to train in the Pyrenees in the hope of securing one of the nine places in the squad.

The Tour de France starts in Dusseldorf, Germany on Saturday, July 1.

“I’m going to continue training in the Pyrenees to study some of the climbs," he said. "These are signs that the team has confidence in me. We’ve also spoken about the Vuelta a España. I think I can do well after three months out. I’ll still be fresh. But first, I’m hopeful of riding alongside Chris at the Tour.”

  • Published in Sports

Boston Celtics Trade No. 1 Overall Draft Pick to Philadelphia 76ers



Photo: The Celtics selected Kevin McHale with the No. 3 pick in the 1980 draft, which they had acquired in a deal with the Golden State Warriors. Credit Focus on Sport, via Getty Images

BOSTON — As the 2017 N.B.A. draft approaches, history is, perhaps, repeating itself in Boston. If it is, Celtics fans will be immensely gratified.

Consider that in the summer of 1980, as in the summer of 2017, the Celtics were coming off a loss in the Eastern Conference finals and needed an upgrade. In 1980, as in 2017, the Celtics held the No. 1 pick in the N.B.A. draft, not by virtue of having the worst record, but because of a trade.

And, as was the case in 1980, the Celtics in 2017 have traded the No. 1 pick for the No. 3 pick and other goodies. The Celtics made the swap Monday with the Philadelphia 76ers, obtaining a future No. 1 pick from them in addition to the No. 3 selection this year.

Back in 1980, the Celtics traded the No. 1 pick to the Golden State Warriors for Robert Parish and the No. 3 pick. And Boston then used the No. 3 pick to draft Kevin McHale.

As landscape-altering deals go, the 1980 swap may have set the gold standard. Parish and McHale became Hall of Famers and helped the Celtics win three N.B.A. titles in the 1980s.

The Warriors, with the No. 1 pick they received from Boston, took Joe Barry Carroll. And with the No. 13 pick, which they also received from Boston in that deal, they selected Rickey Brown. Neither had much impact on a Warriors team that was going downhill at the time.

There is no way of knowing if the 2017 trade will work out for Boston the same way. On Thursday night, when the draft takes place, the 76ers are now expected to use the No. 1 pick to take Washington guard Markelle Fultz. The Celtics will then make their selection two picks later — assuming they do not make another deal before then.

Still, just getting the Celtics to this point inevitably draws parallels between the Celtics’ current general manager, Danny Ainge, and the renowned Red Auerbach, who engineered the 1980 deal.

In 1980, the Celtics had the No. 1 pick because of a complicated deal with the Detroit Pistons. The Celtics had signed the Pistons’ M. L. Carr as a free agent in the summer of 1979; in those days the team losing the player and the team acquiring him then tried to work out an equitable compensation package. If there was no agreement, the N.B.A. commissioner had the final word.

After much back and forth, the Pistons agreed to what now looks like a ridiculously one-sided deal: They would take Boston’s Bob McAdoo as compensation for losing Carr but would also send the Celtics a juicy draft package.

And when the Pistons finished with a 16-66 record, the worst in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics suddenly found themselves with a 50 percent chance of securing the No. 1 pick in 1980.

Back then, there was no lottery. The No. 1 pick was decided by a coin flip between the worst teams in each conference (or by the club that held the worst team’s draft rights.) The Utah Jazz had the distinction of being the worst in the West and won the right to make the coin-flip call. Frank Layden, the general manager of the Jazz, called heads, going with the advice of his daughter. The coin came up tails, giving Boston the No. 1 pick and setting the stage for the swap with Golden State.

Ainge secured the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft by virtue of a deal with the Nets in 2013 that still remains hard to believe.

The Nets, thinking instant gratification under their new owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, agreed to part with No. 1 picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018, along with the right to swap No. 1 picks in 2017. In exchange, they obtained Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, two famous, but fading, players. Other pieces were in the deal, but the draft picks were all that really mattered to Boston.

Since that trade, the Celtics have used the Nets’ No. 1 picks to draft James Young (No. 17 in 2014) and Jaylen Brown (No. 3 in 2016).

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In 1980, the consensus No. 1 pick was Carroll of Purdue. But when Auerbach won the coin flip, and the rights to the No. 1 pick, he had his eye on someone who was not on anyone’s draft board at the time, Ralph Sampson, who had just completed his freshman year at the University of Virginia.

There was no early entry deadline for the draft as there is today; an underclassman could simply declare for the draft citing financial hardship as a reason. Magic Johnson had done the same thing the year before after playing two seasons at Michigan State.

So Auerbach made a concerted effort to lure the 7-foot-4 Sampson out of Charlottesville. But Sampson, to Auerbach’s fury and amazement, turned down the Celtics’ boss. Auerbach fumed to reporters, stating that “maybe Ralph Sampson and his parents will come to their senses.’’

Sampson ended up staying at Virginia for four years and was then drafted by the Houston Rockets. Auerbach, rebuffed by Sampson, hatched the trade with Golden State.

Parish became a Celtic immediately, and McHale joined him as the No. 3 pick of the 1980 draft after Utah had chosen Darrell Griffith with the No. 2 pick. The rest is history. The question is whether Ainge, with his deal with the 76ers, is on his way to making history, too.

  • Published in Sports

Pacquiao tapering training for Horn

By: Roy Luarca - Editor / @RLuarcaINQPhilippine Daily Inquirer

Photo: Manny Pacquiao during training at Elorde Gym in Pasay City. He is preparing for a title defense against Jeff Horn on July 2 in Australia. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/

This early, Manny Pacquiao is ready to wage war against Jeff Horn.

Though the World Boxing Organization welterweight title bout is set on July 2 yet, Pacquiao’s training team led by Freddie Roach has declared him fit to fight the Australian at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

Fact is, Roach decided to move Pacquiao’s tapering phase a few days earlier so as to prevent the eight-division world champion from over-training.

From 12 rounds of sparring last Thursday, Pacquiao’s practice session against three spar mates was cut to just ten rounds, according to training assistant Roger Fernandez, Sunday.

And, starting Monday, the training and sparring at Pacman Gym in General Santos City will gradually become shorter and lighter.

According to Fernandez and fellow training assistant Jonathan Peñalosa, a former World Boxing Council international flyweight champion, Pacquiao showed impressive form last Saturday, particularly against Mexican Adrian Young, who bore the brunt of the Fighting Senator’s speed and power.

Pacquiao caught Young, who holds a 23-win, 3-loss,

2-draw record with 18 knockouts, with an uppercut to the chin that made the Mexican prospect groggy in the second round.

Only the ropes prevented Young from going down, and, of course, Pacquiao did not unleash follow up blows.

The same thing happened in the fourth round, Peñalosa narrated, making Roach, assistant trainer Buboy Fernandez and strength and conditioning coach Justin Fortune happy.

Peñalosa said Pacquiao is 99 percent ready and is primed for a knockout if he catches Horn early in the 12-round bout.

For his part, Roger Fernandez said Pacquiao can tangle with Horn as early as Monday.


  • Published in Sports

Imports TNT X-factor

By: Musong R. Castillo - Reporter / @MusongINQPhilippine Daily Inquirer Tristan Tamayo/

Photo: TNT KaTropa is still undecided on which import to play in Game 1—at least—of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals on Wednesday.

Joshua Smith, the Texters’ 330-pound banger, attended the title series press launch on Monday, giving the impression that he will play despite torn ligaments in his right toe that left him hobbling in the last two games of their Final Four series against Barangay Ginebra.

But over at another table sat Mike Myers, an equally impressive specimen who is listed as standby by the coaching staff in case medical examinations to be done later in the day would keep Smith out of commission.

So where does this leave pre-series favorite San Miguel Beer which must prepare for every single component of its title series foe?

And does TNT coach Nash Racela, in keeping his cards close to his chest, have an advantage in any way? Is he throwing San Miguel’s preparations off?

Grand Slam-winning coach Tommy Manotoc feels that both teams have an advantage, albeit slight, with the element of surprise belonging to the Texters because they have two imports at their disposal.

“It will take San Miguel three quarters at most to adjust [to the new import of TNT], but that’s all,” Manotoc said over the phone. “But you have to keep in mind that even [the local players of] TNT would have to adjust [playing] with their new import in such a high stakes game.”

“So it can work both ways—the positives and the negatives,” he said. “The advantage that TNT has is that it has two imports at its disposal and the advantage that San Miguel has is that it still has (June Mar) Fajardo and (Charles) Rhodes.”

Manotoc feels that TNT must have its import—whether that be Smith or Myers—neutralize Fajardo, leaving Rhodes as Racela’s other defensive concern.

“The question mark is if a local can guard Rhodes,” Manotoc said. “TNT’s locals would have to defend him, and he will be a handful.”

San Miguel team manager Gee Abanilla has compiled materials of Myers’ past games in the US and Korea since seeing him behind the TNT bench on Saturday night.

And Abanilla feels that TNT will be playing with Smith, at least for the 7 p.m. game slated Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.


  • Published in Sports

U.S. student returned from North Korea in coma dies

By Steve Gorman, Reuters
Photo: Otto Frederick Warmbier is taken to North Korea's top court in Pyongyang in this photo released by Kyodo March 16, 2016. (Reuters/Kyodo/File)

U.S. student Otto Warmbier, who was imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months before being returned home in a coma less than a week ago, has died in a Cincinnati hospital, his family said in a statement on Monday.

“Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today,” the family said in a statement following Warmbier’s death at 2:20 p.m. EDT (1820 GMT) at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

His family has said that Warmbier, 22, had lapsed into a coma in March 2016, shortly after he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea.

He was arrested, according to North Korean media, for trying to steal an item bearing a propaganda slogan.

North Korea released Warmbier last week, saying he was being freed “on humanitarian grounds.”

The University of Virginia student’s father, Fred Warmbier, said last week that his son had been “brutalized and terrorized by the Pyongyang government and that the family disbelieved North Korea’s story that his son had fallen into a coma after contracting botulism and being given a sleeping pill.

Doctors who examined Otto Warmbier after his release said there was no sign of botulism in his system.

Warmbier was freed after the U.S. State Department’s special envoy on North Korea, Joseph Yun, traveled to Pyongyang and demanded the student’s release on humanitarian grounds, capping a flurry of secret diplomatic contacts, a U.S. official said last week.

Tensions between the United States and North Korea have been heightened by dozens of North Korean missile launches and two nuclear bomb tests since the beginning of last year. Pyongyang has also vowed to develop a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.

Susan Thornton, the U.S. acting assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said earlier on Monday that the United States was concerned for the welfare of the three other U.S. citizens still held in North Korea — Korean-Americans Tony Kim, Kim Dong Chul and Kim Hak Song.

  • Published in World

Pekeng bigas: NFA confident no plastic, fake, rice in the market

By Romel Lopez, News5

Photo: Video clip spreading in social media circles about fake rice.
The National Food Authority, on which is vested the function of ensuring food security and the stability of supply and price of the staple grain – rice, has assured the public that there is no proof that so-called fake rice, in the form of plastic material extruded to look like grains of rice, is being sold widely in the market.

The pronouncement comes in the face of a video that has been circulating in social media circles pertaining to a Netizens experience with the so-called “pekeng bigas”.

NFA is said to conduct daily monitoring of the situation in the rice market, and the reports in social media pertaining to alleged fake or plastic rice are being verified by NFA’s investigation and enforcement department.

NFA has released guidelines for the public to ensure that what they are buying is real rice.

Photo: NFA tips on dealing with fake rice.
For raw rice, consumers should make sure that they buying only from retailers accredited by the NFA or from their “suki” rather than from vendors they do not know or trust. An NFA accredited store displays the trader’s full name and license number.

If the grains are uniformly-sized, there’s a chance they may have been made by a machine. All rice grains have a chalky dot or scar at the tip of the kernel where the germ or embryo was removed. It looks like a small groove at the tip of each grain of rice.

Aside from the appearance, consumers should also be aware of the smell of rice. If it smells anything like plastic or any synthetic material, it should be subjected to laboratory analysis to ascertain the composition of the “grain.”

For cooked rice, consumers must also make sure it does not smell unusual. There should be no foam like substance left on top of the rice when cooked.

If one feels ill from eating any suspected fake rice, it is best to see a doctor immediately.

Photo:NFA Bantay Bigas hotline number.
Sample of the rice, at least 1 kilogram, should be brought to the NFA-FDC for analysis. For those who cannot go to NFA directly, they may give their address and contact details so that NFA agents can get the samples from them.

Anyone may contact the NFA Bantay Bigas Hotline 0906-4363133 to report any complaints related to suspected fake rice or rice trading violations.


Video link:


Fake mayor nabbed for duping victims of millions

By Marlene Alcaide, News5 | Christopher Lloyd T. Caliwan, Philippine News Agency
Photo: Lino Espinosa Lim Jr., who allegedly duped hi victims of millions of pesos by claiming to be a mayor close to Pres Duterte and other top government officials, during his presentation at the NBI. (image from News5 video)

MANILA, Philippines — A man posing as a mayor from Masbate province has been arrested for luring people into coughing up millions of pesos by claiming close ties to President Rodrigo Duterte and other ranking government officials.

Lino Espinosa Lim Jr., who claimed to be the chief executive of Uson, Masbate, was presented by the National Bureau of Investigation on Monday.

NBI deputy director Ferdinand Lavin said Lim, against whom warrants of arrest had been issued by trial courts in Mandaluyong and Parañaque cities for a string of estafa (fraud) cases, was arrested Friday by the agency’s Special Action Unit at a coffee shop in Quezon City.

He had been eluding attempts to entrap him for a month following the complaint of his latest victim who he duped of P14.5 million, the NBI said.

Lavin said Lim would convince his victims by saying he was close to, among others, Duterte, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, and lawyer Fred Lim of the Philippine Gaming Corporation. At times he also posed as a casino junket operator.

Lim would ask his victims, among them South Koreans, to invest in supposed schemes that would earn them as much as 20 percent monthly. But when they asked him about their investments later, he would make excuses and eventually could no longer be contacted.

Lavin urged other victims of Lim to come forward and file complaints against him.

He said three other victims have appeared before the NBI and said they lost a total of P10 million.


Rizal still alive, relevant to look-alikes

By: Kimmy Baraoidan, Maricar Cinco - @inquirerdotnetInquirer Southern Luzon 

Photo: Jose Rizal look-alikes stand in the premises of the Rizal Shrine during the celebration of Rizal’s 156th birth anniversary in Calamba City, Laguna. (PHOTO BY KIMMY BARAOIDAN /INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON)

CALAMBA CITY — At first glance, one would think that Jose Neri, 57, a local vendor, was national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal back from the dead and walking around the premises of Rizal’s ancestral house, now “Museo ni Rizal” (Rizal Museum), clad in dark-colored slacks and coat, book in hand.

Neri won this year’s Rizal look-alike contest held during the celebration of the national hero’s 156th birth anniversary. Neri, the oldest of this year’s contestants, said he always won the title since the contest was launched in 2014.

This year, Neri competed against four other contestants, among them an incoming grade 10 student Keanu Gabriel Destura, 14, the youngest contender. Neri was urged by his nephew to join, while Destura was inspired by his teacher.

Not only do Neri and Destura emulate Rizal physically, but they also strive to be like the national hero in their actions and in their everyday lives.

Destura admires Rizal for his patriotism, resolve, and willingness to give his life for the country.

“Respect for his fellowmen, that is what I apply to myself, also being humble,” said Neri.

“He is usually the youth’s inspiration, and he also serves as a model for the youth in doing good deeds,” Destura said.

“Maybe if Rizal were still alive, he would not allow the unrest that is happening now. He really wanted peace,” said Neri.

“Jose Rizal was the first to believe in the power of paper and pen to rouse from slumber our fellowmen during the time of enslavement and cruelty by the Spanish,” said Laguna governor Ramil Hernandez in a message during the celebration.

“Rizal had a mission—to make people realize that we should be united first before we can be great,” said Professor Dwight David Diestro, who taught the mandatory history course about Rizal’s life and works at the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

However, Rizal’s mission is yet to be realized. Diestro added, “The struggle is within. Our worst enemy is ourselves, for he said, ‘A people can be independent without being free.’” SFM


AFP: ‘Shabu’fuels Maute fighters

By: Allan Nawal, Julie S. Alipala, Richel Umel - @inquirerdotnetPhilippine Daily Inquirer

Photo: DRUG HAUL Military officers present packs of “shabu” reportedly seized from a house used by terrorists in Marawi City. —RICHEL UMEL

MARAWI CITY — “Shabu” is keeping the terrorists holed up in Marawi City tenacious despite their dwindling numbers, slowing the advance of government troops, the military said on Monday.

Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesperson for the Army’s 1st Infanty Division, said the military reached the conclusion about the terrorists’ use of shabu, or crystal meth, after the recovery on Sunday evening of 11 pieces of 1-kilogram packs of the illegal drug from a house used by the terrorists as cover in clashes with government troops.

Found by troops from the 49th Infantry Battalion, the shabu was estimated to be worth P110 million to P250 million, Herrera said.

“This validated the observation of our troops that the enemies were suicidal and appeared to be drug-crazed,” Herrera said, adding that drug paraphernalia and at least four rifles and a black flag of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in Iraq and Syria were also found in the house.

Capt. Eric Estrevillo, the civil-military officer of the 49th Infantry Battalion, said IS-inspired gunmen from the Maute terror group held the house for about a week and put up fierce resistance before troops captured it on Sunday.

“[The gunmen] appeared [to be] very energetic and high on drugs,” Estrevillo said.

The military estimates that up to 120 terrorists are holed up in buildings, houses and mosques in the commercial district of Marawi.

Herrera said the drug-fueled determination of the terrorists and their use of high-powered firearms, such as antitank weapons, and fuel bombs were slowing the advance of government troops.

He said the terrorists also used fuel bombs during a clash with government forces on May 31 that cost the lives of 13 Marines.

Herrera said the government troops continued to advance and had killed 257 terrorists since May 23.

He said three soldiers were killed in fighting on Sunday, bringing the government’s losses to 62, including three policemen.

Twenty-six civilians have died in the fighting since the crisis began four weeks ago.

One of those killed on Sunday was Cpl. Arshid Isirani of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 5, who was shot by a sniper in the chest.

Isirani’s remains were flown back to his home in Zamboanga City on Monday, Herrera said.

Herrera said the military had sent in another battalion to fight the Maute terrorists and their allies from the Abu Sayyaf bandit group.

He said airstrikes, artillery and ground attacks also continued on Monday.

Commercial drones
Aside from using high-rise buildings and mosques to stage attacks, the terrorists were also using technology to determine the position of advancing government troops.

“They have used drones, the commercial ones that we can buy anywhere,” he said.

Soldiers have shot down several of the terrorists’ drones, he said.

Herrera denied that the military had been using poison bombs against the terrorists.

“Please do not believe what you read on social media. Your Armed Forces is a Constitution-based organization and we follow international laws on warfare,” he said.

Herrera added that the military was trying to rescue as many civilians as it could from the war zone.

“Last night, we rescued another trapped civilian, bringing the total to 1,637,” he said.

The fighting began on May 23 when Maute and Abu Sayyaf gunmen laid siege to Marawi after a failed military attempt to capture Isnilon Hapilon, an Abu Sayyaf leader who had pledged allegiance to IS.

The military was caught by surprise and President Duterte declared martial law in all of Mindanao to crush the terrorists’ attempt to establish an IS enclave in Mindanao.

Bigger US role
Foreign fighters have been killed in the fighting, including from Middle Eastern countries and Chechnya, indicating IS fighters returning from Iraq and Syria are opening a new front—in Southeast Asia.

The developments in Mindanao have raised significant alarm in Washington.

US Defense Secretary Jim Matthis told Congress last week that a long-running US military operation to help Philippine forces contain extremist fighters was canceled prematurely three years ago.

Small numbers of US Special Forces remain in an “advise and assist” role, and the United States is providing aerial surveillance to help Philippine troops retake Marawi from the terrorists, he said.

But US lawmakers, including from President Donald Trump’s Republican Party, want a bigger US role, short of boots on the ground.

They fear the area is becoming a new hub for IS fighters from Southeast Asia and beyond.

“I don’t know that Isis are directing operations there but they are certainly trying to get fighters into that region,” said Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, using another acronym for IS. “We need to address the situation. It should not get out of control.” —With a report from AP


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